My favorite story summing up our time in Palo Alto so far:
Father pushing a child in a stroller: his favorite new word is “auto”
Second Man: (to first’s child in stroller) “Jasper, what sound does an auto make?”
****The child says nothing.
****Electric car whirs past quietly.
Father: “Oh Bruce, this is Menlo Park, cars don’t make sounds.”
Hi! It’s Paul again. I wanted to share about something cool that happened last week. I attend a weekly running group at a running store in the next town over (Menlo Park). It’s really great, with about 10-20 people gathering on Thursday nights to run a different route each week, anywhere from 3-6 miles. On the last one of each month, and on other occasional days as well, the owners line up a shoe company representative to come and wear-test shoes from a brand like New Balance, Asics, Brooks, Altra, etc. On these run days, affectionately known as “pub runs”, the group shares snacks, popcorn, drinks, etc. inside the store after the run. It’s a time for conversation, fellowship, getting to know other runners, talking about the places to run in California, and other things. It seems like every person is from a different place, so that offers something to start a great conversation. I’ve met a woman who used to live near the neighborhood of Cincinnati that we lived in, a couple from Columbus, Ohio, a man from India, a couple from New Zealand, and several others. One week I had a fascinating discussion with a man who was raised Jewish but no longer considers himself to be religious. He still observes all of the traditional holidays, and was open in sharing his reasons with me. In turn, he asked me to open up about my own faith, and why I’ve chosen to be Protestant and to work so much with the Church of the Nazarene. It was incredible, and completely spontaneous.
I’ve found that if I open up (appropriately without forcing it) first, I have a lot of people willing to open up back. This has meant a few good conversations with people at running group about what I do, but also even during time in the bookstore at work and in other places.
Most recently, I did this type of thing with one of the shoe representatives who visited on a pub run day. The manager introduced him as Zach Bitter, the American record holder for running 100 miles. Yes, I said miles, not meters. This is him:
He was totally cool with me talking to him after our run was over, when most of the other people were inside the store. I started the conversation off by mentioning I had a friend who was into Ultrarunning (doing more-than-a-marathon-distance races) and asked if he’d be willing to give me a firsthand account of it. I asked about fueling, and he opened up about the intricacies of what to eat and drink on an 11 hour run. Then I mentioned a couple of the public names of ultrarunning (Dean Karnazes and Scott Jurek), and asked what he thought of them being the public face of the sport.
From there, we both were able to open up; him about his running days a bit and myself about what brought me here and the program we’re in through 365m. I said I’m from Ohio, he said he’s also from the Midwest, so we connected over that. It was incredible. All while I helped him take down his merchandise tent and such.
He was really down to earth and humble, not mentioning being popular or anything at all. I respected that. Plus, I nearly pegged his accent, which is sort of becoming a fun hobby of mine (he’s from Wisconsin and I was guessing Canada; close, but not quite).
Here’s an article about him if you’d like to read more.
Today I’m going to write about our studies in 365m.
What is intercultural studies? We’re here in Palo Alto studying through the 365m program at Nazarene Theological Seminary, taking courses in intercultural studies (ICS for short). It’s an interesting field. We each majored in it at Mount Vernon Nazarene University, with our favorite professor teaching many of the courses. We took classes like Gospel and Culture, Foundations of Missions, Cultural Anthropology, Intercultural Communication, and Intercultural Practicum. Students are required to study abroad as part of the curriculum, and we both studied in Costa Rica, taking courses in ICS.
Overall, ICS is pretty tricky to define.
The short answer in the context in which we studied it is that it’s a degree in missions. Many people use it to become missionaries. Indeed, a number of the people we know who studied it use it for just that.
During college, I sometimes heard it depicted as “applied anthropology”, using the study of people to communicate a message to another person of another culture.
I‘ve heard studying it described as “having a degree in people”.
I know people who studied it at the Master’s Degree level who use it in working with churches as pastors or leaders.
I know people who use it in their professions as educators, teaching cultural communication and tolerance, as well as contextualization, to students who plan to go into cross-cultural situations.
In job interviews, I’ve argued that it can help me in customer service or in sales, helping adapt to the customer’s needs/wants and contextualize the message to the customer.
I’ve used it in lots of church situations, working with both Spanish/English churches and their leaders. Combined with studying another language, the field’s insights help in effective communication.
I even used it during my time working as an interpreter, working to negotiate the cultural and language differences between people on both sides of the language gap in situations at hospitals, dentist offices, etc. Sarah Lanier’s book, “Foreign to Familiar” outlines a simplified dichotomy of “hot cultures” and “cold cultures”. These distinctions, which I won’t get into in detail her, describe the difference between people oriented, friendly, open cultures and more reserved, private, information oriented cultures. Distinctions like this are the realm of ICS.
One of the most memorable definitions for it came from a professor of ours in undergrad. That professor has a Master’s in ICS, and teaches nearly all of the courses in that field at our school. I asked one day how he dealt with not having a quantifiable “field”, like so many others in nursing, mathematics, physics, etc. since ICS is much more nebulous. His answer has stuck with me:
“In ICS, our field is being able to engage other people in their fields”
is what he told me that day. After taking some time to ponder this, I realized that it was a great definition of ICS. We try not only to communicate across cultures and relate to people in order to communicate better to them, we also often try to understand the frame of reference from which another (the anthropological Other) is operating. We try to have a general knowledge of lots of things that other people find meaningful so we can try to craft and contextualize a message in ways that person can better understand.
In college, I think I often unconsciously found myself doing this. I loved discussing coffee with some friends who were passionate about coffee. I loved watching apartment mates playing video games and memorizing some details of the games to be able to converse with them about said game. I’d sit with them while they played and read or talk, taking in details about the game and its world. I loved engaging my roommate in discussions about movie and media, since those were some of his passions.
Much of my senior year of college was all about being conversant in a number of classes that were tangentially related to my “field”: I took a Speech Pathology course (with only majors in that field in it besides me) and related to them in their terms and still engaged the material from my passion for languages. I took Biblical Greek for 2 semesters, not for preaching from like the others in the class, but for the linguistic and cultural elements I could take away from it, which meant that I had to learn to function in the context of all those ministry majors. I spent many hours crafting my honors thesis (designing a major in linguistics) and crafting it into a presentable form to convey my creation to the university.
This engaging others on their terms is even one of the things that I love about the Church of the Nazarene. I didn’t grow up Nazarene, but have become immersed in it and learned about it experientially. If I know that someone is a part of it, I can converse with them about some of the common terms and figures within the church (especially all those acronyms I had to start understanding in college like NMI, NYI, NYC, PLNU, GMC, NTS, BGS, DAB, etc.)
During our time here in Palo Alto, this process of “engaging others in their fields” has continued. A coworker is from a different country, so I engage them with a general knowledge of that reality’s effect in mind. I speak with church people and adapt the language I can use, throwing in terms that I cannot use in general conversation outside the church. A friend in our context is an athletic trainer, so I asked her about an old Achilles injury I had and kinesiotape and its uses in training.
Another friend is passionate about business, so when I relate to him I consider the ways that business shapes his outlook and actions.
Going forward, having this type of mindfulness is helpful in all aspects of interpersonal relationships, and it will be invaluable to us wherever we go from here.
If I end up pursuing the field of linguistic anthropology as I hope, the anthropological elements found in ICS will give me a better base for pursuing my goals. In the distant future, if I enter into a professorship role as I hope, then engaging students in the fields that they have chosen will be an invaluable skill to add more meaning to our interactions.
Thanks for your continued support of us during this year in intercultural studies and mission.
I’ve been reflecting lately on all the times that the church of the Nazarene never ceases to shock me on how connected it is.
I didn’t grow up in the Nazarene world, but have gotten increasingly connected lately since going to college. Going to school, events, and trainings coupled with two internships and now a Seminary program have begun to build our network. Elizabeth and I are starting to get to the point of knowing Nazarenes in lots of places, or meeting people for the first time who already know someone we know. So, I decided to make a list of my most surprising incidents of connection. There are more than I realized.
1. Meeting a friend of a seminary administrator who was the star of an anecdote shared back in January
While we were in Kansas City, one of our program administrators told a story about a friend of his who hates sour cream and how he sent that friend a video of his kid eating sour cream to gross him out. On site here, I worked with the district at a district committee event, and happened to meet the friend who starred in the story. He’s a pastor out here.
2. Meeting Steve again at a Nazarene convention
In 2014 I worked in Philadelphia for a summer with a missionary family. The church hosted some weeks of Work and Witness teams, who coincidentally all came from parts of Ohio. I made a few relationships with members of those teams, but never really expected to see them again. A year later, Elizabeth and I got sent by a professor of ours to a Work and Witness convention, in South Central Ohio. We found out we were going right before the event happened, and arrived somewhat late. When we walked in the door, a man was doing registration at a table down a long hallway. In disbelief, I found myself saying “Steve?!” And heard my name back in equally surprised terms. Elizabeth thought that I had called ahead or knew who to expect. I had not and did not. There was Steve, an electrician who was on one of the Work and Witness teams in Philly the year before. We had done some work together and had some conversations. I was blown away to see him again. There were also a few others from those teams that came to that convention. Nazarenes…
3. Knowing the district in Missouri where a church leader Elizabeth’s dad mentioned serves as District superintendent.
On a visit to Elizabeth’s parents’ house, we were eating breakfast in their dining room one morning. Elizabeth’s dad was talking about Nazarene political activity, and mentioned another Nazarene, an out of state District leader. When he did so, I happened to be walking into the kitchen from the dining room. On my way out, I heard him say something along the lines of “Yeah, he’s working out there on the, uh, which district is that…?” Before I knew it, I found myself yelling “Joplin!” from the kitchen. I then said something about how I was becoming a Nazarene even unwillingly…
I had attended a training the summer before, and that very district leader was a teacher in a couple of the training sessions.
4. Traveling to a small country church and having a woman recognize Elizabeth (by sight only even!) as her mother’s daughter.
Last fall, we traveled extensively in Ohio to fundraise and gain partners. We went to a small church for a missions service and dinner, and a woman from the church eating at the church dinner with us said “You’re Miriam’s daughter, aren’t you?” to Elizabeth. She recognized her as looking enough like her mom to place her as related. We hadn’t even given our last names, and Elizabeth was a Harding then. Again, I was surprised, but not overly surprised because…Nazarenes.
5. Being in that same small country church’s missions service and hearing them pray for an African missionary who we had just met and traveled with a few months before.
In July, we had traveled to Philadelphia to do a deputation service with a professor of ours. He was traveling with a missionary friend of his, who lives and works in West Africa. We had a great trip.
In that small church’s missions service, the church had a portion of the service dedicated to prayers for missions. One of the written prayer requests was “We pray for ______ _____ (first and last name!) and the work in ________ (his country!). We knew that beyond a faraway missionary that was important to pray for, the name meant nothing in-depth to the other attendees. But we were blown away that they were praying for a missionary we just happened to have met and traveled with a few months before!
These five incidents are only the most compelling of the coincidences, reconnections, and surprising lines of contact that have happened to us in the past two years or so.
This is one of the things that I love about the Church of the Nazarene. There is always a connection in every place you go. You can go into nearly any city where a Nazarene Church is, and find someone you know by some sort of distant connection. It truly is a global church.
I wanted to let you in on an exciting life update! As some of you might know, I am working with an amazing organization here called Saving Acts. Shameless plug: if you don’t know anything about them, check out their website here. Also, if you’re a creative who wants to use your talents for furthering the Kingdom, or if you are in ministry and could use some help in raising awareness for your cause, look at the website. There are some amazing opportunities to get involved or host a team.
Anywho, I will be going with Saving Acts to the General Assembly for the Church of the Nazarene and hosting a booth in the exhibit hall! For those who aren’t familiar with the event, it is a gathering of Nazarenes from all over the world that happens every four years.
Having a booth at General Assembly means that Saving Acts will have exposure to about 25,000 people who don’t yet know about it, and that is extremely exciting! It will allow us the space we need to share our story, find new creatives to work with, and find those who might benefit from what it is we are doing.
If you would be willing, please pray that all goes well, and that amazing things happen there that we can’t even dream of.
Also, if you find yourself at General Assembly, please come say hi! I’ll be in the exhibit hall pretty much the whole time it is open, and Paul will likely be with me. We would love to see you there!
Thanks for all your support! And, as always, we love hearing from you. We got a couple of letters recently, and they make our day! If you don’t have our address, our blog has our emails on it. Send us one, and we can get it to you. Or you could just send us an email letter. Either way, we like it when we hear how you’re doing!
Hello, Paul here. I wanted to share about how I’ve begun to get involved in a context here. I started a new job as a bookseller at the Stanford University bookstore about two weeks ago. It’s pretty cool as far as part-time jobs go. I’m currently working about 10-20 hours per week.
I get to greet customers and ask whether there is anything they are looking for. If they are looking for a section or a specific book, then I get to take them to the section or try to locate their book. It’s rewarding getting the challenge of finding the book they are looking for. One time, a young girl came to the store looking for some zombie survival book, and said that she could not find it anywhere she looked. She asked if I could find it, not expecting us to have it. When we were able to find it for her, it was really cool to see how thrilled she was that we found what she had been looking for. She said it made her day, and in a small way making her day made mine.
The amount of diversity in the bookstore blows my mind. It seems like a huge majority of customers are not from the area, and many are even not from the country. Visitors come to the school on official visits, but the school is also a tourist destination so many come just to see the school as well. A huge number of visitors seem to be international. The customer base reflects the high Asian population of our area, with the most common people being Mandarin speakers. But I have also met visitors from Germany, Barcelona, an Irish dad buying his kids a math book, and a couple of British couples looking for business books.
Intercultural studies may be hard to define and not “a career track”, but I get to interact with and bridge across cultures every time I work there. I was asked what I hoped to do by studying intercultural studies, and honestly answered that the variety is very unspecific. But I was able to share a story from my first day.
On that first day, my very first customer brought me a picture of a book he only knew the title of in Catalán. He explained that he was from Barcelona, and asked if I could search by author. When I found out he was from Spain, I slowly switched to using Spanish for the rest of our interaction. It took a few exchanges for him to catch on that I was speaking Spanish, but when he did his excitement that I was speaking Spanish was fun to see.
My favorite thing about the job is that I can commute on my bike.This was a goal that I had in trying to find a job here, since we only have one car. Another goal I had was to get involved on Stanford’s campus and begin to build relationships there.
I have begun to do so with coworkers and customers, and hope to begin to talk with students and professors from that starting point. For my term project by the time we leave, I hope to interview some professors about what Stanford means to them, and the effect of their experiences on them. My goal in this is to learn more about Stanford, but also to learn more about Anthropology as a discipline, specifically Linguistic Anthropology.
This is the type of field I hope to enter in future, and is a hope I have been developing during our time here. Long story short, recently Elizabeth and I are very intrigued by the potential to move to Illinois, specifically Urbana-Champaign. University of Illinois has a program in Sociocultural and Linguistic Anthropology there that intrigues us. The program funds accepted students for five and a half years through a 20-hour-a-week teaching/research assistantship. The town is a little smaller than many graduate school cities, and there are three Churches of the Nazarene within a ten minute drive of the city.
There is even a coffee shop that serves roasts from my favorite coffee roaster, Quills!
We are excited about the possibility of moving somewhere for more than nine months, and having a potential option for where to go and what to do when we leave Palo Alto after our term here.
If you would like something to pray for us for, we would love if you prayed for us to engage with our time here and make the most of it. It is hard to believe that we have been here for over two months, and have about eight months left. We want to be faithful to the call we have received to be here, and to engage the people and groups here.
Beyond here, the next step in the process of pursuing a PhD program is to study for and take the GRE exam for entrance. I can deal with the words-based problems, but have a bigger struggle with the math problems. So, motivation to study and guidance for how to move forward in the application process, and discernment whether that is the best next step for us after here would be great things to pray for.
Thanks for walking with us in this journey. We so appreciate it, and love getting emails or mail from you. We try to send out postcards and occasional letters, so if you’d like to get one of those as well, please tell us.
This past week, I was made aware of a need in our area here. The district we are on, the Northern California district, is sending a team to India this summer. One of their goals is to teach our brothers and sisters there about Bible Quizzing, both children and teen versions. They would also like to provide them with the supplies needed to do quizzing in their area. The team has most of the paper resources they need, like guides, books, and the like. However, they are in great need of number boxes for children’s quizzing and jump seat sets for teen quizzing.
If your church has any number boxes or jump seats that are no longer in use, would you consider donating them to this cause? If you do not have any extra sets sitting around, but would still like to help, you could also sponsor a set of boxes or jump seats. A set of five number boxes costs $17 before shipping, and a set of jump seats with indicator box (like the one seen above) can cost anywhere from $300-400.
If you have any sets you would like to donate, or if you would like to sponsor one, either send me a private message on Facebook or an email at email@example.com for more information.
As always, we are thankful for your thoughts and prayers, and we always love hearing from you!
This is a Waymo car. They’re part of Google’s project making self-driving cars. They’re fairly cmon on the street we live on here in Palo Alto. Google’s complex is only a town over from us, and I assume that’s where they come from. It’s an intriguing concept, but not one I know much about. But I do know that the cars are very quiet, making only low electronic hums instead of the old standby engine roar.
Now, I would like to narrate my experience about half an hour ago.
Picture, me, Paul standing in my front yard in flip flops. In March. Already sorta unusual where we come from. Picture me pulling some large garbage and recycling and yes waste bins across the yard towards the curb for pickup. At 11 pm. It’s quiet. Dark. Kinda chilly. The intersection is deserted, which is a rare sight during the days.
I’m pulling a heavy bin across the yard, and all of a sudden I hear a low whirring electric hum. I whirl around and there is a lone Waymo, with its light on top. Stopped at the stoplight in front of our house. I took in the sight, not that uncommon, figuring they can probably do more testing at night with less traffic.
I walked back to where the bins were and began tugging another across the lawn. In my flip flops. In March, at 11 pm. I neared the curb, with my back to the street, and stopped. I heard another hushed, low whirring mechanical sound. I whirled around again, this time convinced I had to be lost on the set for the new Blade Runner remake. Or at least some other Sci Fi world.
There, pulling up next to the first Waymo car, still waiting at the stoplight, is a Second. Waymo. Car! Both are driving themselves, with passengers.boyh have their little dome lights on top.
The light then changed, and both cars drove through the four way intersection, one turning left, the second going straight. Both making that whirring, humming noise. I stared, and minutes later the intersection was filled with regular, human cars waiting for the lights.
But for that brief space in time, amidst those dim lights, dark night, and whirring hums, I was taken to another world.
I’m writing to talk about what I had the chance to do for the past three days in Fremont, CA. A week or so ago, Elizabeth and I talked with the district’s NMI President, Pastor Joe. He asked us how we might be able to get involved on the district level here. We each shared our experiences and interests, and for me that meant talking about Spanish.
I shared that I had helped the Southwest Ohio District (when we lived in Cincinnati) by interpreting in meetings between Spanish-speaking pastors and district-level employees that needed to meet with those pastors. Pastor Joe was really interested to hear that, and subsequently asked whether I would be interested in interpreting for the district credentials interview process, which happened these past days (Thursday-Saturday).
So, Thursday, Friday, and part of Saturday I got to spend at Journey of Faith Church of the Nazarene in Fremont, California.
They set me up with an office, and I got to spend three days there, learn a ton about the inner workings of the credentials board process, and interpret for a lot of great candidates seeking to renew their district ministry licenses or become ordained as preaching/teaching church elders/deacons. It was a great process to learn more about, and I am grateful for the opportunity.
During meals and breaks, I had the opportunity to fellowship with some of the board/committee representatives, and even met a friend of an administrator in our seminary program (who Elizabeth and I had heard a story about during our time back in Kansas City in January!). The world is small, but the Nazarene Church world is smaller. Elizabeth jokes sometimes that I sometimes know more Nazarenes than she does, despite not being involved in that world until going to college.
First, I got to interpret for candidates talking with a group of three people about their mentorship relationship process, their education process in the Nazarene course of study, and their application for license renewal or ordination. I was pretty comfortable interpreting for these meetings (and was originally told I would be interpreting only for these meetings). I thought “I can handle this pretty well.”
When I got there, I was also asked to interpret for candidates for license renewal/ordination recommendation before the larger board of ministerial credential representatives. There were twelve or sometimes more members in this committee, and these were all pastors from throughout the district. This was definitely more “outside my comfort zone”.
These interviews meant a much greater depth of content, and proved a pretty good challenge to interpret. Candidates were asked more personal questions, but also asked deeper questions about calls, faith, scripture, and even about the Articles of Faith of the Church of the Nazarene. Interpreting these types of technical church language and scripture references, as well as different personal stories was pretty challenging.
But it was also incredibly rewarding, since I got to hear so many powerful stories of calling to preach or teach, and hear about peoples’ passions for the Church.
Overall, it was an incredibly enriching experience, and helped remind me a little more of the place that Elizabeth and I can fill while we’re serving here in this year in mission. We have unique skills and experiences, and those can be used in the service of the Church and to build the Kingdom. It’s a joy to watch some of the pieces come together. Like this:
Beginning Spanish in high school -> studying Spanish at MVNU -> Gaining fluency in Costa Rica -> Interning with a Spanish/English congregation in Philadelphia -> interning with a Spanish/English church in South Carolina and getting to do some minor interpretation -> working as a medical interpreter in Cincinnati, OH -> being asked to interpret for the Southwest OH district of the Church of the Nazarene -> using SWO district interpreting experience to interpret for district credentialing.
That whole trajectory (and even thinking through it all to type it just now) is incredibly humbling to me. Too often I want to see the purpose, the end goal, the long-term. But I know that at all times God is preparing us, shaping us, and guiding us into who we might be.
Thank you all for your support. Without financial and prayer support from readers like you, we would not be able to live here, contributing to the work this district is doing. As always, please reach out to us. We want to hear from people whenever you have questions/comments/encouragements/conversations.